Apple (AAPL) Stock Surges After Billionaire Carl Icahn's Tweets

Apple passes $500 a share with help from Twitter but without a Twitter handle.

August 14, 2013, 12:16 PM

Aug. 14, 2013 — -- Is the brave, new world of technology one in which market-moving news will increasingly migrate to social media such as Twitter?

Shares of Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) are a good example. Apple shot up 5 percent yesterday and continued to surge today after billionaire Carl Icahn tweeted about his large stake in Apple and his chat with Apple's CEO Tim Cook about the company's share buyback program.

For the first time since January, Apple stock crossed $500 on Wednesday mid-day. Apple's shares traded around $498.50 at the close of New York trading on Wednesday, up 1.82 percent.

"I don't know that market-moving information breaking on Twitter will become 'the norm,' but it has certainly become important," said Henry Blodget, CEO and editor-in-chief of Business Insider.

Icahn, chairman of Icahn Enterprises L.P. and known as an activist investor, tweeted on Tuesday afternoon, "We currently have a large position in APPLE. We believe the company to be extremely undervalued. Spoke to Tim Cook today. More to come."

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Another Wall Street heavy hitter, Leon Cooperman, chairman and CEO of Omega Advisors Inc., revealed in a 13-F filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission that during the second quarter his firm bought 31,000 shares of Apple. Cooperman does not appear to have a Twitter handle.

Brian Colello, senior equity analyst with Morningstar, said it's difficult to tell whether Icahn's tweets about his reported $1.5 billion investment really revved up investors.

"Had a nice conversation with Tim Cook today," Icahn also tweeted. "Discussed my opinion that a larger buyback should be done now. We plan to speak again shortly."

Investors seemed to pay little attention to fellow billionaire Larry Ellison's television interview with Charlie Rose in which the Oracle Corp. CEO said Apple would never be the same without its late founder Steve Jobs.

Apple's shares have declined from a high of over $700 each on worries that its new product pipeline has dried up and the Android platform is increasingly dominating the smartphone market over the iPhone.

Colello said Apple is covered so closely by media outlets, blogs and investors that any mention anywhere will attract eyeballs.

"If there's any sort of news, outlets cover it in the next 30 minutes," Colello said. "Any time the stock price spikes, they are going to report it anyway."

Colello said he's not sure whether more movers and shakers will follow Icahn's lead, but he is now following the billionaire's Twitter handle.

In April, the Securities and Exchange Commission issued a report clarifying that companies can use social media like Facebook and Twitter to announce key information so long as investors have been alerted about which social media outlet will be used to disseminate the information.

Following the SEC's instructions, Icahn Enterprises released a statement on Monday, informing investors that Icahn "intends to use Twitter from time to time to communicate with the public about our company and other issues."

"Therefore, in light of the SEC's guidance, we encourage investors, the media, and others interested in our company to review the information that Mr. Icahn posts on Twitter in addition to the information that we disclose using our investor relations website, SEC filings, press releases, public conference calls and webcasts," the statement read.

Since his first tweet on June 20, Icahn has only tweeted 12 times, mostly about Dell Inc., over which he has been vocal especially regarding founder Michael Dell's attempt to take the company private.

Michael Dell has a Twitter handle and has tweeted over 1,500 times, as does his company, which has tweeted about 3,000 times.

One of the only tech companies without a presence on Twitter is Apple. The company sticks to major announcements on its website, like when it announced its third-quarter earnings last month and that it spent $16 billion in a stock buyback program.

"Apple has authorized higher buybacks, but it's a matter of pulling the trigger and raising more debt to do so," Colello said.

Read More: Apple Returns $18.8 Billion to Shareholders, Sells Higher Than Expected 31.2 million iPhones in Third Quarter

Still, Colello said Apple stock has been "cheap for some time," giving the shares a fair value of $600. "We're not surprised Apple is running up," Colello said.

He said the share price has been trending upward since its third quarter earnings announcement last month and the news of a possible Sept. 10 launch date for the next iPhone.

Read More: Next iPhone on Sept. 10?

Because most of Apple's massive cash pile of over $140 billion is trapped overseas, the company would most likely have to issue bonds to expand its share buyback program.

Investors believe that a company buying its own shares is a good use of capital when the stock is cheap and it increases the earnings because they are spread among fewer shares outstanding.

A company buying its own shares can be a sign that management is optimistic about future prospects, "which is important for Apple because it's so secret about its innovation," Colello said. "While that's not always true, we think this is a case where we think they bought at a bottom three months ago and are undervalued today."

On the other hand, some investors note that share buybacks are a sign that a company has nothing better to do with its money--like using it to grow the business with new ideas and products.

ABC News' Sandy Cannold contributed to this report.

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